Social prescribing - helping people find health solutions in their community

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Those solutions don’t have to be medical. They can involve engaging with other people and activities in the community. And the word ‘community’ is important because it helps people improve their health and wellbeing in a familiar environment.

As an example, an individual might present to their doctor as depressed or anxious, perhaps as a result of caring for others, disability, financial or domestic worries, or because they feel lonely or isolated. These are potentially serious issues if unattended-to long term, and the idea of social prescribing is that if the underlying causes can be addressed through a non-clinical piece of advice or support it leads to better outcomes all round.

There are different models for social prescribing but they usually involve a link worker or ‘connector’ who helps people find those community-based solutions. They might help direct people towards volunteering, arts activities, adult education, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice or sports.

Ultimately it’s about empowering people by encouraging them to find their own pathway towards better health and wellbeing.

Voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations have long seen the need to build better referral links with public sector services in recognising the holistic needs of clients – and collaborative working helps plan provision and explore the effectiveness of social prescribing. Social prescribing is now well established across Norfolk, helping over 18 to improve their health and wellbeing by providing support and advice, beyond, or as an alternative to, medical intervention. 

CAN co-ordinates social prescribing in West Norfolk and Breckland. Referrals can be received via primary care and health care providers, adult social care and early help hubs.  We’re working with 21 GP practices across the patch, through Living Well Connectors employed by partner organisations Age UK, Family Action Swaffham, Future Projects, Home Group Ltd., The Matthew Project, West Norfolk Carers and West Norfolk Mind.

The three largest areas for demand have been around mental health, advice and home adaptation/assisted technology.  For more information about Community Action Norfolk’s Social Prescribing work, please contact Freedom on [email protected]